The storm is expected to unleash coastal storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) along Florida's Panhandle and dump as much as a foot (30 cm) of rain across Florida, Georgia and SC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.
Midday Monday, winds were already clocking in at 75 mph 140 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, with authorities predicting Cuba could see between 4 and 8 inches of rain - which could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. The latest, 12z operational run of the European model shows Michael reaching a central pressure of 943.8mb shortly after noon on Wednesday, before making landfall along the Florida coast.
Governor Rick Scott´s office said mandatory evacuation orders were in place for parts of Bay County, which includes the popular Panama City beach resort, and areas in nearby Gulf and Franklin counties.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the Florida Forest Service and the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement are preparing teams to support urban search and rescue operations. Michael could be as strong as a category 3 storm at that time. "Even if your flight is not canceled, you may make a one-time change to your ticket without fee if you are scheduled to travel to, from, or through the following destination (s) on Delta, Delta Connection, or Delta-coded flights during the specified time periods listed below", Delta said on its website.
The storm was forecast to bring up to 30 cm of rain with storm surges up to 3.7 meters in the Florida Panhandle, according to the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
The life-threatening storm is then expected to rapidly intensify, threatening anywhere to the right of Panama City with the potential of up to 12 feet of storm surge.
The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.
Florence made landfall last month as a Category 1 storm, killing dozens in the Carolinas and Virginia.
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"Alabama is once again in the path of a hurricane, but I know Alabamians will once again come together and be prepared for whatever Michael may bring", said Gov. Ivey.
"Think about what we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma", he said.
According to the NHC, Michael will likely make landfall early Wednesday morning, and is "forecast to be a risky major hurricane". Tropical storm warnings extend farther south, to Chassahowitzka, Fla., and to the west, along the Alabama coast.
While Michael remained a tropical storm throughout the weekend, the system reached hurricane status on Monday as a Category 1 with nowhere left to go but up.
A large mound of sand in Tallahassee was whittled down to a small pile within hours Monday as residents filled sandbags against potential flooding.
"Today it is about life and safety", Gillum said.
Hurricane Michel will also cause heavy storms in Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, all in Mexico.
The Florida State men's and women's swimming & diving teams will not travel to Christiansburg, Virginia due to the threat of Hurricane Michael.